by Reemus Fernando
When the Devapathiraja team visited Colombo for the knockout stage matches of the just concluded Under-19 Division I tournament Lumbini and Wesley generously provided free lodgings for the team. When they host teams, Richmond come to their rescue providing accommodation for the visiting teams. Foundation of Goodness has been providing them team kits. Except the umpire fees, all their other expenses on cricket are met by the cricketers’ not so well to do parents. Their coach had done a voluntary job for a better part of the last two decades. In return, Devapathiraja College, Ratgama boxing their way up in the country’s schools cricket rankings have not disappointed.
When schools with over 100 years of rich cricket history and substantial funds to nurture the sport struggle in lower divisions in the premier Under-19 cricket tournament, Devapathiraja, a little known entity at the start of the millennium, have improved by leaps and bounds during the last two decades. Their latest achievement was reaching the final of the just concluded Under-19 Division I Tier ‘B’ cricket tournament.
Devapathiraja were the babies of the Tier ‘B’ of the Division I tournament inclusive of power houses of cricket namely Ananda College, Thurstan College and St. Peter’s College from Colombo and strongholds of Southern Province, Mahinda, St. Servatius’, St. Aloysius’ and Dharmasoka. Against many odds Devapathiraja reached the final. After being bowled out for a low score they made Mahinda College, Galle toil hard for victory.
Devapathiraja started playing cricket when their current coach Ranjan Lasantha de Silva was a student at the school. Many schools started playing hard ball cricket following the 1996 World Cup win. Ranjan, like the rest of the youth of his era was craving to play cricket. Unfortunately there was no cricket team or facilities for the sport at the school. He requested in writing that cricket be started at his school. Fortunately the principal, late T.A.C.N. Gunasekara had come from a cricket playing school (Revata College) and facilitated the start. Like the majority of schools which started playing cricket after 1996, the sport started with a Big Match against Sri Sumangala College, Hikkaduwa in 1997. But the sport did not really kick off until the correct combination of coach, Master in Charge and the sports loving youth got together a couple of years later.
With no previous coaching experience Ranjan after leaving school started training the school’s teams. By 1999 the school had started training all four age groups.
“I was influenced and helped by the likes of Tedlal Silva and Viraj Chaminda to pursue qualifications in coaching. So I did the Level I coaching course conducted by Sri Lanka Cricket. Also followed whatever other courses available to be qualified for the job. I must also thank former District Coach Lasith Chaminda and officials like, Jayananda Warnaweera for their support,” said Ranjan in an interview with The Island.
When cricket Devapathiraja commenced playing cricket they did not have a proper ground and the teams took refuge at the Ratgama Public ground. The school received a boost when Nishantha Kumara, who had the experience in running cricket at Neluwa National School received a transfer to Devapathiraja in 2000. He did all the necessary correspondence for all age group teams to play in Sri Lanka Schools Cricket Association conducted tournaments and worked hand in hand with Ranjan until they were promoted to Division I.
Devapathiraja achieved their first breakthrough when they reached the final of the Under 19 Division III tournament in the 2013/14 season. They were the runners up to Debarawewa National School that season and earned the all important promotion to Division II the following year. It did not take too long for them to graduate from Division II to Division I.
“You have to play in the Division I category for your players to get recognition. Players in the lower divisions too are called for selection trials but it is highly unlikely for them to get the selectors’ nod. That realization compelled us to strive for Division I qualification,” said Ranjan.
However by the time they had reached the top Division they had already produced several cricketers to club level and one of their products, Tharindu Kaushal had played several Tests for Sri Lanka.
They were the Division II champions in the 2017/2018 season and commenced their Division I campaign in the 2018/19 season where they struggled but managed to avoid relegation.
Devapathiraja have done well in the lower age category tournaments as well and has produced players who have represented the Sri Lanka Schools Under-15 teams and National Youth Teams. Dilshan Kanchana, Umesh Mayurakantha, Pathum Madusanka, Raveen Yasas and Thikshila de Silva are among them.
According to Ranjan, cricket at Devapathiraja survives thanks to the contributions made by the cricketers’ parents who are not from well to do families. “The Schools Development Society provides umpire fees. But all other expenses are taken care of by cricketers’ parents. But there are others who help like the Foundation of Goodness which provides several scholarships for students and playing kits. Principal of Richmond College and the Masters in Charge of Cricket of both Mahinda and Richmond support us when we host teams. When we went to Colombo for the knockout stage matches Wesley College and Lumbini College provided lodging” said Ranjan.
Ranjan also appreciated the support given by the school’s Principal Sam Silva and current Master In Charge of Cricket Ranjith Kumbalathara.
Ranjan said that cricket at Devapathiraja has not only helped the national team find raw material but has also helped youth of the area to engage in sports in a meaningful way.
Sudeera Weeraratne (Captain), Irushka Thimira, Dinitha Prabanka, Pawan Sandesh, Jeewaka Shasheen, Sasanka Nirmal, Tharindu Rukshan, Matheesha Saranga, Darshaka Sandeepa, Sandaru Theekshana, Chaminda Sandaruwan, Pathum Shaminda, Pradeep Rangana, Hiran Chamikara, Chanuka Sulakshana, Simash Dilunja.
Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society win third place
The medal winning karatekas with Chief Instructor Sensei Lakshman Saparamadu.
Karatekas of the Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won 33 medals at the E – Kata International Karate Tournament recently.
This team were placed third at the tournament organized by the United Universal Shotokan Karate Association. The event was conducted using video technology. Some thirty counties participated in this tournament.
Karatekas fielded by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society won twelve gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. They were trained by Shitoryu Shukokai Karate Society’s Chief Instructor, Sensei , Lakshman Saparamadu. (Text and pic by W.D. Vithana Delgoda Corr.)
Yupun within required world ranking to earn Olympic ticket
Local athletes suffer due to absence of top competitions
by Reemus Fernando
Italy based athlete Yupun Abeykoon could become the first Sri Lankan sprinter since 1996 to compete in the men’s 100 metres at an Olympics after improving his world ranking to be among the top 50 athletes in the world.
According to the World Athletics’ world rankings updated on Wednesday Yupun has climbed 34 places up to be ranked 48th in the world. The fourth place performance produced at the last week’s Diamond League meet in Rome has stood in good stead for him to secure the top position. He was ranked 82nd in the world prior to last week’s meet.
Competing against a solid field Yupun clocked 10.16 seconds to finish ahead of American veteran Mike Rodgers and Ivorian Arthur Cissé.
In the ‘Road to Olympic Rankings’ he was in the 65th position but after the Diamond League feat he has climbed 15 positions to be in the 50th position.
World Athletics set tough qualifying standards for Tokyo Olympic qualification. For a direct qualification Yupun needs to clock 10.05 seconds and athletics officials said that the national record holder has often expressed confidence in achieving the mark.
While 39 athletes will be selected through qualifying standards, the rest of the athletes will be selected according to their placing in the world rankings. The Tokyo Olympic men’s 100 metres will feature 56 athletes.
No Sri Lankan male athlete has featured in an Olympics 100 metres sprint since Chinthaka de Zoysa competed at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996.
Since Yupun has reached the top 50 now, it will be a matter of maintaining that position for him to realize the Olympic dream. According to Sri Lanka Athletics, Yupun is set to compete in another meet over the weekend.
In contrast the absence of quality competitions has hampered the progress of local track and field athletes. Steeplechase runner Nilani Ratnayake, who is the only female athlete within the required world rankings to book an Olympic berth, has slipped five places to be ranked 41st now. She had a better world rank (35th in the world) couple of months back. Her participation in Olympics will be in jeopardy if she drops below the 45th position as only the 45 top ranked athletes are chosen for Tokyo Olympics for this discipline.
Some of the top ranked athletes who were looking forward to compete in Kazakhstan with the hope of improving their world rankings over the weekend had to abandon their plans yesterday after authorities’ last ditch attempt to secure visas for them found futile.
Middle distance runner Nimali Liyanarachchi (Road to Olympic Rank– 55), 400 metres sprinter Nadeesha Ramanayake (56), javelin thrower Sumeda Ranasinghe (46) and high jumper Ushan Thivanka (52) are the other athletes closer to earning Olympic berths. But unavailability of competitions has hindered their chances.
Arthur encourages Sri Lankans to take up County Cricket
by Rex Clementine
England’s County Cricket is not the most attractive form of domestic cricket any longer as the IPL has taken over. What you end up earning after six months of County Cricket, the IPL pays five times of that for six weeks of work. But County Cricket remains the ultimate test of players’ skill. So many Sri Lankans reinvented themselves after a season of County Cricket be it Aravinda de Silva in 1995 with Kent, Kumar Sangakkara in 2007 with Warwickshire, Muttiah Muralitharan in 1999 with Lancashire or Chaminda Vaas in 2004 with Worcestershire.
Sri Lanka’s Head Coach Mickey Arthur agreed on the values of County Cricket and urged his players to take up stints in England if possible. “I would love our players to get involved in County Cricket. It’s a great breeding ground and you find out about your technique there when you play cricket day in and day out. If there’s room in our calendar, it would be superb for our players to be involved.”
The national cricket team is in Manchester at the moment and having finished their quarantine the team has started training at Old Trafford. The venue has a superb facility with rooms inside the ground. According to Arthur, one set of balconies of the hotel room are facing the Old Trafford cricket ground while the other set are facing the Old Trafford football ground, home for the famous Manchester United. Arthur said that his players have got ‘the best of both worlds.’
Sri Lanka were initially supposed to play warm-up games in Canterbury and Hove against Kent and Sussex but those were scrapped with the players supposed to remain in a bio-secure bubble. Arthur wasn’t overly bothered that the warm-up games had been called off and was happy with the training the team was getting in ahead of the series.
One of the areas that Arthur wanted his batsmen to improve on from the Bangladesh series is the middle overs batting. “There was lot of learning from Bangladesh series. We changed our brand a little bit. We got caught in the middle overs a bit. We worked on it during our training and we want to have intensity in the middle overs. We were getting only 130 to 135 runs in that period. That is an area we need to improve on.”
With the return of Avishka Fernando to the side, the Sri Lankans have so many batting options when it comes to the opening combination with Niroshan Dickwella, Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka all able to partner him. Arthur was keen on having a settled batting line-up.
“We have got to settle down on a batting order as soon as we can. We cannot be having so many players batting in different positions. It creates confusion. What we have tried to do is to nail down guys’ roles during our training,” Arthur explained.
The first T-20 International takes place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff next Wednesday (June 23).
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